Editor’s Note: The Seminole Source is running a series highlighting several key 2020 election categories and candidates running in the August 18, 2020 primary, and November 3, 2020 election. While not every category of office will be covered, we will be spotlighting candidates running in the following races: Federal: Representative in Congress District 7, State: Florida Senate District 9, Seminole County Sheriff, Property Appraiser, Tax Collector, Supervisor of Elections, Commission District 3, Commission District 5, and School Board Member District 3.
We reached out additionally to the three candidates running for Seminole County Commission District 1, but received no response.
For the Seminole County Property Appraiser race, there are two candidates who qualified to run, incumbent and current Property Appraiser Dave Johnson and former Mayor of Sanford Jeff Triplett. While they will be on the November ballot only, here is a brief snapshot of each these candidate’s campaign finances as of August 3, 2020:
Meet the candidates for Seminole County Property Appraiser
David Johnson: Total contributions received: $121,450.00; Total spent: $13,974.45; Cash on hand: $107,475.55
No Party Affiliation Candidate:
Jeff Triplett: Total contributions received: $14,000; Total spent: $6,294.63; Cash on hand: $7,705.37
We reached out to both of these candidates and requested responses to six interview questions, but Republican incumbent David Johnson was the only candidate who provided responses.
Who is David Johnson?
David Johnson, a lifelong resident of Seminole County, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration through Stetson University, and has served the citizens of this county for nearly 35 years at the Property Appraiser’s office. He began as an appraiser trainee in this office, and working through every department, rose through the organization to become Assistant Property Appraiser before running for the office in 2004. He has over 30 years of property assessment experience, is an alumni of Leadership Seminole, is the only candidate running for this position with the Certified Florida Appraiser (CFA) designation, and since his first election win, has held the office of Property Appraiser consistently for 15 years.
Throughout his years of service, Johnson has led other Appraisers by serving in the past as President of both the Florida Association of Property Appraisers (FAPA) as well as of the American Society of Appraisers. Community service beyond his official position has been a priority to him, as seen by the variety of community organizations and memberships roles he has held, both past and present, such as Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary International; Board Member, Habitat for Humanity of Seminole County and Greater Apopka; Vestry Member, Holy Cross Episcopal Church; Affiliate Member, Orlando Regional Realtors Association (ORRA); Member, South Seminole Sertoma Club; Past President, Sanford Rotary Club; Past Board Member, Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce; Member, Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce; Member, Oviedo-Winter Springs Regional Chamber of Commerce; Member, The Greater Sanford Regional Chamber of Commerce; and a Precinct Committeeman, Seminole County Republican Executive Committee.
With all of Johnson’s years of service and community involvement, officially and as a community member, it should be no surprise that his campaign logo reads Let’s Keep David 2020, He Values Our Community. But his work for the county and accomplishments further reveal the depth behind the words.
Johnson has a history of harnessing technology to provide top notch customer service. Technology investments include utilizing artificial intelligence to process deeds in less time while virtually eliminating typographic errors; making sure there is a cutting-edge geographic information system that not only satisfies the requirements of appraisers and citizens but is also utilized county-wide by other government agencies to reduce redundancy and cost; and having an award-winning website with over millions of visits annually that provides almost real-time updates on the over 176,000 Seminole County real estate parcels. In response to the recent COVID-19 pandemic Johnson made sure they added appointment scheduling, live chat and video conferencing to the site as well. Additionally, Seminole County was one of the first Florida counties to release an online homestead application which has led to the highest rate of online filers statewide. It was the first to provide streamlined integration with DMV validation and digital signatures. And Johnson made sure there was development of an online tangible personal property filing system to assist Seminole County businesses in streamlining their annual return process.
Under Johnson’s leadership, Seminole County was the second jurisdiction internationally to earn the prestigious Certificate of Excellence in Assessment Administration by the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO). The Property Appraiser’s office has also achieved the highest level of efficiency and the lowest staffing level in over 30 years, while continuing to provide exceptional customer service.
Johnson’s fiscally conservative budget practices have led to the ninth lowest budget per capita statewide among Property Appraiser offices, while being the 13th largest county. All systems in this office have been developed in-house, utilizing a consistent workflow framework that allows the office to quickly adapt to changing requirements and more effectively address the appraisers, other governmental agencies and the citizen’s needs. All independent financial audits done annually have been in compliance, with no findings or recommendations, and all annual performance audits by the Florida Department of Revenue have also been successful.
Johnson has been recognized and awarded for his leadership and excellence, including the International Association of Assessing Officers (IAAO) Certificate of Excellence; Friends of Realtors Award, Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association (ORRA); Good Government Award, Private Business Association of Seminole (PBAS); President’s Award, Florida Association of Property Appraisers; and Public Servant of the Year, Seminole County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
If re-elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, my office implemented a number of enhancements to respond to the challenge while continuing to provide a high level of customer service. Some of these changes include:
- Live chat feature on our website to digitally aid customers
- Appraisers’ use of desktop methods of inspection to continue operations
- Extension of deadline for Seminole County businesses filing tangible personal property tax returns
- Extension of deadline for homestead exemption filing utilizing online portal
- Staff remotely working with minimal service interruption
- Enhanced safety measures for the office to follow CDC guidelines for a safe and healthy workplace
- Encouragement of virtual and digital meetings and correspondence to reduce the need for in-person visits
- Online appointment system for customers requiring in-person visits
If re-elected and COVID-19 is still ongoing, we will continue offering this array of services and adjusting to the current environment so as not to cause any interruption of the vital services this office provides.”
What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?
“Because of COVID-19, traditional campaigning has been a challenge. We have had to pivot and put more effort into:
- A campaign website that lists my accomplishments as Property Appraiser (LetsKeepDavid2020.com)
- Regular posts on social media to reach voters (facebook.com/LetsKeepDavid)
- Virtual meetings with Chamber of Commerces, political organizations, and other community groups
I have missed interacting in the community because of the suspension of many in-person events. However, I appreciate the innovative ways groups are connecting digitally.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“Since filing for re-election in May of 2019, I have enjoyed hearing from constituents about their positive experiences with the Seminole County Property Appraiser’s Office. I am proud of the accomplishments my office has achieved which are highlighted on my campaign website.
Before COVID-19, I had the privilege of presenting to many professional and community organizations, many of whom utilize our award-winning website. I am very proud to hear from the users of the site that has millions of visits annually.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Property Appraiser’s Office?
“As in the past with other economic turmoil that has impacted property values, whether it was the dot com crisis, September 11th, hurricanes, the great recession, or COVID-19, this office has had to respond to make appropriate adjustments while following both the Constitution of Florida and state statutes. As the Past President of the Florida Association of Property Appraisers and a current member of the legislative committee for the Property Appraisers Association of Florida, I, along with my 66 fellow elected Property Appraisers, have had to react to these changes. This includes advocating for appropriate legislation to give us the tools needed to address these challenges.
I have the experience needed to be able to effectively navigate the COVID-19 crisis as it relates to Seminole County’s property values.”
What is your #1 hope for Seminole County that you would love to make a reality if re-elected?
“If re-elected, I would like to help provide the leadership needed to return Seminole County to the strong economic growth that was prevalent before the COVID-19 crisis.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“As the only Certified Florida Appraiser in this race, I would emphasize the importance of experience and integrity. I have a record of leveraging technology to enhance services, being fiscally conservative, and promoting transparency in our operations. This constitutional office plays an important role in local government. I firmly believe my experience should not be traded out for a candidate needing extensive on-the-job training.”
Notable endorsements / support:
Orlando Regional Realtors Association; Associated Builders and Contractors Political Action Committee; Seminole County Fire Fighters, Local 3254; Seminole Public Education PAC
About the process: The Seminole Source emailed the same six questions to all candidates running in the offices and positions outlined above, if their email address was listed. In cases where no email was provided, we left a voicemail requesting their email, and /or sent a message on Facebook requesting it if no phone number was provided. There were a few candidates that provided no contact information at all. The response deadline was given equally to all candidates. Biographical information and history was pulled from the candidate’s campaign website and / or Facebook page.